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Let me just affirm what you already know: Things are lousy right now. There is no equality, no justice. No hope? Sometimes it feels like it. Then I hear a little voice (it sounds suspiciously like Auntie Ruth) saying, “Focus on the bright side; focus on hope.” Sometimes, it feels foolish to hope. But hope, like faith, never claimed to be rational. It just is.

Advice for those who are sinking: First
find a reed, however slender, to grasp.
If muck sucks you downward, lie on your back,
float: improbably, hope will buoy you.

I read the handbook, yet trust forsakes me.
I hover, the slough still plucks and pulls.
Hope, foolish and fleeting, throws me a rope —
faith fills my chest; my heart is a red balloon.

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When we moved into our house, the front yard was more dandelions than lawn.  I don’t mind a few of the bright yellow flowers but this was ridiculous. It took about two years of popping them up with a small shovel and composting the plants roots and all but now the yard sports only a few dandelions.

Imagine my dismay when I saw an article by a bee expert.  They are asking people to leave the dandelions in their yards.  The flowers bloom earlier than many and are top spring food for bees.  If only I had known.

With this in mind, I find myself looking different at the plants around me as we expand the community garden.  Could we give dandelion greens to the food pantry?  I hear people eat them.  And a friend makes wild violet jelly.  We had plenty of wild violets in earliest spring.

Violets and dandelions.  Are they really any different from the people we encounter every day?  Both were fashioned by a loving creator who sees the Light in us all.

–SueBE

It has been almost a month since I managed to post here on our dear blog.  With two family members experience health issues and hospitalization, something simply had to give.  There were times that I thought it just might be me.

But these two ladies here had my back.  “You are taking time for yourself, aren’t you?”  Miss Ruth was always the more pointed of the two but that’s what we love about Ruth.  Straight up, no nonsense caring.  She has no qualms about telling you to remember to take time for yourself.  Lori checked in, lettting me know that they had everything covered.  I knew they would.  I never doubted it.

Still I appreciated those little notes checking in on me.  And the prayers.

These ladies were definitely among the rainbows these last few weeks.  And spotting this quote after the last few weeks, my ultimate compliment may have to change to “you’re a rainbow.”

In Christian believe, rainbows are a symbol of the promise between God and his people.  But they are much more.

They are symbols of light and hope.

This week, when you spot someone who is struggling with something, take a moment.  Check on them.  Shine Christ’s light into the darkness around them.

It will make a difference in their lives.

–SueBE

 

 

(Or: In Which Lori and Ruth Pen a Poem Together)

You may not know that one of my very favorite poets is our own Ruth. As you probably have gleaned, she has a way with words. So when she emailed me with a premonition most poetic — Rows and rows of grown things. And it came from the pain. — I had to respond.

Oh Gardener, you surely tease:
what can grow from this blighted, salted soil
but stones and brush, blunted and stunted as bonsai?
What takes root in blood and mud but dashed dreams
and creeping evil? This ground has shown no promise,
not in all its years of sunward striving. Still, you laugh.
Crucifixion turns into Resurrection. Do I not recall?
And I see — rows and rows of grown things,
green shoots rooted in pain, turning new blooms
toward heaven. When will it come? You simply smile.
I carry no timepiece. Only wait for the rain to cease.
And you throw me an umbrella: a friend.
I resolve again to wait.

Emphatic disclaimer: This is NOT my poem. It was written by Grace Noll Crowell (1877-1969), and it is beautiful. So beautiful — and so essentially needed right now by so many people — that I had to share it. If you are tired (and I suspect many of us are, burdened by health problems, family troubles, lack of clarity in life, political frustration and despair over the violence that besets us), here is my attempt at comfort. Please know that you are never alone.

Dear heart, God does not say today, “Be strong!”
He knows your strength is spent,
He knows how long
The road has been, how weary you have grown;
For He walked the earthly roads alone,
Each bogging lowland and each long, steep hill,
Can understand, and so He says, “Be still
And know that I am God.”
The hour is late
And you must rest awhile, and you must wait
Until life’s empty reservoirs fill up
As slow rain fills an empty, upturned cup.
Hold up your cup, dear child, for God to fill.
He only asks today that you be still.

Once, while I was at an infusion center getting treatment for my MS, I overheard a nurse asking another patient how she was doing. “It’s a little bit cold in here,” the lady replied. She had no hair and looked exhausted, clearly being treated for cancer. The nurse came back with a blanket and carefully covered her, since she was attached to an IV and couldn’t adjust it herself. I was so moved when that nurse literally tucked her in and patted her on the arm. Later, she stopped by and asked again how it was going.

That’s not even her patient, I thought, amazed. As busy as these nurses are. She’s not getting any extra pay for doing that. Nobody saw that interaction but me. I felt like I was looking through God’s viewfinder. I was so heartened by this moment that I wrote a letter of appreciation to the medical director, who shared it with the staff.

The next time I arrived for my infusion, well, you would’ve thought I was Queen of New Jersey. (Note: that should really be a thing. I would totally run for that office.) Nurses were nudging each other. I felt something in the energy of the place, and it seemed that everyone was smiling in my general direction. Then when I sat down for my infusion, a nurse asked if I needed a blanket. “I was the nurse in your letter,” she said. “I can’t tell you what it meant to me. To all the nurses. And the staff. Thank you for noticing!”

I didn’t film this kind act, so of course, it didn’t go viral. And of course, viral is never a good thing at a medical facility! Just one kind action. One note of encouragement. Positive energy can be contagious.

What if we find out Darth Vader was really just a nice guy, if a bit misunderstood? A man in Tennessee whose father was a Star Wars fan was saddled with the name of the dark lord and seems to have a sense of humor about it.

In other off-beat news, it won’t come as a big surprise that Kafka was a terrible boyfriend, would it? Reading his letters to his fiancée, it seemed he saw everything – even love – in a, well, Kafkaesque light.

I love light-hearted stories like these. But I really love reading stories that start out on the dark side and end up reaffirming my faith in humanity.

A distressed man on the autism spectrum who had attacked his elderly parents was admitted to a Chicago hospital. Instead of sedating or subduing him, the security officers sang to him, calming him down and defusing the situation.

When a teacher saw her 7-year-old student riding his bike on a busy highway, she found out his diabetic father had collapsed at home. When he couldn’t unlock his father’s phone to call 911, he got on his bike to ride five miles to his grandmother’s house. The teacher called for help, and the boy’s father recovered.

Every bad news story starts from a place of pain, doesn’t it? The person involved may be called by different names: gunman, perpetrator, criminal. But it all starts with a “dis.” Disrespect. Feeling disenfranchised. Dismissed. Pain is like a chain letter. Someone feels slighted. They take that pain with them and slight someone else and it spreads like a virus.

The antidote to the “dis” is to not react in kind, but to unpack the pain behind the anger. Will compassion put an end to the cycle of pain? We can only live in hope.

If you’ve never sung in a choir, you may not know what a cantata is.  A cantata combines readings and song and the ones we perform last about 20 minutes.

Our choir director generally gives us a rehearsal disk about 2 months before the performance.  Listen to the disk, sing along, learn your part.

Sounds easy?  And it really isn’t dreadful.  First you learn you part, then you rehearse with your section, then you rehearse with the full choir.

Then, and only then, do we take it into the sanctuary.

Our first run through in the sanctuary is always frighteningly bad.  No, really.  You’d think we’d never heard the music let alone practiced it.

Fortunately, Ellen, our choir director is an angel of hope.  “That was a little rough but you’ve been practicing.  You’ll have it in no time.”  And? She was right.  No matter that we missed almost every cue, forgot our parts, sang the wrong words and what was that?

In the light, you don’t need hope but it in the dark it pulls you forward, back toward the light.

–SueBE

This phrase in the Bible shows up more than once: “And it came to pass.”

I’ve always taken that tiny snippet of Scripture as inspiration.

Here’s why: it didn’t come to stay. It came to pass!

Whatever it is in your life that’s holding you back, getting you down, tearing you up. It came here for a reason. And it’s just for a season.   

Even though I reside on the sunny side of the street, we’ve all been down that dark alley. I’ve learned some things that have helped me stay in a positive frame of mind.

Tell but don’t dwell. Tell your story but don’t dwell on the pain of the past.

Follow but don’t wallow. Follow your heart and share what you’ve been through so others know they’re not alone, but don’t wallow in the negative emotions of it.

Make sure it’s useful and truthful. It’s not helpful – to you or those around you – to talk trash about your ex or go into gory detail about the ways life hasn’t been fair to you. It is helpful to be human about it. Here’s something I’ve been through. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. Let’s share what we’ve learned from it, and if it’s still in our life, how to deal with it.

Bask in the positive. You learned from it, lived through it, found a way to rise above.

Be in the present. The past is a springboard. It may have refined you, but it doesn’t define you.

Moving forward with optimism is the antidote to a painful past. No matter what your life may have been like before, every new day is a chance to start again.

What do you wish you had done differently?  If you are anything like me, you can look back over a day, a week, a month, or a year and wish that you had made different choices somewhere.  Some of them will be big choices.  Some of them will be small.  And some of them will, if we let them, weigh us down.

Personally, this is where it can really benefit you to realize that people simply are not perfect.  Perfection?  It belongs to God.

Us? We aren’t going to pull it off.  It doesn’t matter how well we plan or how hard we try.  Human beings are not perfect.

For some people, that thought can act like a weight.  No matter how hard they try, they will be imperfect.

Not me.  For me it is one of those messages of hope.  I should try to do my best, but things will go wrong.  The universe is a flawed place and I am a part of that universe.

I do carry a spark of God’s light and with it I can light my weaving, stony, imperfect path.  And the best part?  He will walk it beside me.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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